When you’ve grown up in a small town, your memories often revolve around the comforting kind of feeling that anyone else’s mother, no matter their child-rearing differences or life circumstances, is a surrogate of your very own. That’s just how it is. The neighborhood concept.
And when the town is very small, the neighborhood is the entire town. That’s a great thing, especially if a “communal” mom worked in the schools, charged with monitoring students’ behavior, keeping them in check, blowing the whistle when they needed to be called out, and just plain looking out for them.
Forever Fair Havenite Margaret Joan Blake, better known as Mrs. B., was one of those moms. And a passel of kids, now parents and grandparents themselves, from the halls of Fair Haven schools to Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) are in mourning over the loss of the mom, schools aide, fire company friend and just plain good lady who passed away on Oct. 7.
They’re smiling, though, over the many times Mrs. B. plucked paper airplanes and spit balls out of their mischievous little hands, confiscated bubble gum and scraped it from underneath desks in the library after she shushed the squirrelly little rascals.
Mrs. B. was seemingly always there to cheer on one of those kids she chided with love and a little grin. I was one of those kids. My crimes: tossing my friend’s illicit bubble gum, ineptly flying paper airplanes bearing “secret” messages. My punishment: confiscation of my criminal tools and, likely, a good laugh in the aides’ break room about how lame I am at flying the plane and how dopey the message was.
But, hey, if she hadn’t always been in auto “look-out” mode, I, as an adult, may have never gotten that great candid shot of Springsteen at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair. Yup. She’s the one who alerted me. While roaming the grounds as a young(er) reporter, taking photos as I have done for decades, back in the 1990s, I heard, “Elaine, he went that way! Bruce Springsteen! Go get ’em!” Frantically, she was pointing, signaling me and cheering me on.
When I found him, like a sissy, I didn’t chat with him. Mrs. B. gave me the high sign and thumbs up and I snapped the shot on a film, point-and-shoot camera. I had no idea what I had gotten and it was one shot. That’s it. I found out after the film went to the darkroom and there were cheers in the office. Woohoo! I still, though, remember Mrs. B., that mom, my mom’s friend, the aide, championing the whole thing. She was just like that. With everyone. All her kids. These little things, at the hands of people like Mrs. B., who make the small moments loom large in our minds forever, they count. A lot. Remember them and thank those who gave them to us.
So, thank you, Mrs. B.. Love, all your Fair Haven and RFH kids. Rest In Peace. You are remembered in a very big way.
From Joan Blake’s obituary …
Joan was born in New York. She lived in Fair Haven most of her adult life and then moved to West Long Branch.
“She started work at Fair Haven Sickles School then went to RFH as an aide. She loved her time with students in the halls, cafeteria and library, where she was affectionately known as ‘Mrs. B.’
“She also enjoyed supporting the Fair Haven Fire Department during fair time alongside her friends and husband Hugh. She enjoyed spending summers at Sandy Hook beach. Joan was a member of the Church of the Nativity, Sand Pipers and had her own group of seniors who met at the mall weekly.
“She loved yard work and gardening. She will always be remembered for her great sense of humor and always caring for other peoples’ needs before her own. She will also be remembered as being a sweet kind soul looking to help others. Joan was a Loyal NY Yankees fan and loved her Barnacle Bills’ cheddar burgers, glass of wine and Rooney’s hot dogs.”
She was predeceased by her loving husband Hugh.
She is survived by: her two sons, William and his wife Leslie, and James and his wife Jill; four grandchildren, Justin, Samantha, Maggie and Jeffrey; and her new great-grandson, Benjamin.
Services were private. Donations in lieu of flowers can be made in her name to St. Jude’s Hospital and the American Heart Association.
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